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The United States vs. Craig Neidorf
Denning D. Communications of the ACM34 (3):22-43,1991.Type:Article
Date Reviewed: Aug 1 1991

One of the dilemmas of life is finding a balance between individual achievement and attainment and the overall needs and well-being of the society in which the individual exists. Denning has taken up the issue by developing and reporting her conclusions regarding the case of United States vs. Craig Neidorf, the prosecution led by Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cook, the defense by attorney Sheldon Zenner, and her participation as an expert witness. The editors of the Communications of the ACM teamed Denning’s paper with the views of other experts and colleagues from the fields of computer security and management, ethics, scientific freedom and human rights, computers and society, and law enforcement. These people are Donn B. Parker, Steven Levy, Eugene Spafford, Paula Hawthorn, Marc Rotenberg, J. J. Buck Bloombecker, and Richard Stallman. The paper also includes a rejoinder from Dorothy Denning as well as interspersed quotations from a panel discussion that occurred during the 13th National Computer Security Conference in October 1990.

The case involved the publication of a good part of the Enhanced 911 emergency system by an electronic newsletter, Phrack, published by Craig Neidorf, a pre-law student at the University of Missouri. Many excellent ideas to think about are introduced by everyone. These include unauthorized entry, unauthorized break-in, freedom of inquiry, freedom of expression, individual gain versus societal norms, technological competence and impatience with the property values of others, society’s rewards for wizardry versus society’s rewards for ethical behavior, and rights and responsibilities. No one speaks on getting information and knowledge access to the have-nots as well as the haves in an equitable, fair manner. Most of the discussion is in terms of the law or ethics rather than what really needs to be done. Nevertheless, the debate is interesting.

Reviewer:  J. Fendrich Review #: CR115267
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